Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bench Press Part Fifteen

Pat Casey

Tom Veller

4.3 – Technique Training for the Bench Press

The most obvious implication of this book is that technique is important in the bench press. The research results discussed in Chapter 2 also question the value of doing multiple repetition sets of competition style bench presses with lighter weights. The shoulder forces aren’t reduced as much as the weigh is, due to the high accelerations typical of lighter high rep sets. Single repetition training that emphasizes learning the correct movement pattern should be more valuable than high repetition training emphasizing totally fatiguing the muscles involved. The bench presser must learn to be continually aware of his technique, and heavier singles are excellent for this purpose. Most great bench pressers have learned this point, as evidenced by the great number that primarily emphasize singles in their bench press training (e.g., Seno, Williams, McDonald, Estep, Bridges, etc.). Basically, the fact that singles worked so well for these great bench pressers is testimony to how important learning better bench press technique is. Further, if one incorporates singles with the periodization training concepts discussed previously (to really develop the key bench press muscles) . . . even better results should occur.

My feeling, again, is that singles should be used primarily for their technique development role in bench pressing. This should probably be the only time your competitive style bench press is done in training. The weights used should be LESS than maximal and increase gradually with your cycle so that a peak is reached in the actual bench press competition. After warmups, a number of singles (perhaps 3-5) should be done with the major emphasis given to perfecting one’s technique. Help coach each other, with the techniques discussed in Chapter 2 serving as a guide. If possible, periodic film analysis of your bench press technique would be invaluable to your progress (such analysis should be widely available soon).

Let me give some sample technique training hints (from Chapter 2):

(1) You can measure the time it takes to lower the bar and compare to the 1.7 to 2.3 seconds typical for elite bench pressers. The important point here is to practice a slow and controlled descent that minimizes acceleration;
(2) High speed films, or even home movies taken periodically of your bench press (perhaps every month of so) are an excellent way to gauge your technique progress over time until digital video becomes commonplace in the unknown future.
(3) Have your training partners watch your elbows on the way up to see that they don’t flare out too soon in the lift;
(4) Attach a pen, felt marker, etc. to the end of the bar so that the bar path is recorded. This can then be compared to the bar paths in Chapter 2, as well used to check for both improvements over time and consistency of the bar path during training sessions. In particular, work on quickly moving the bar horizontally more during that first crucial 4-5 inches off the chest. This is important to practice;
(5) Although I said earlier that you should use the widest legal grip, if you MUST use a narrower grip (this is mainly for those who are smaller in body size or have injuries to the pectoralis major, etc.) you can get a feel for the grip spacing best for you by looking at the technique changes caused by different grip spacings as discussed above in points (2), (3) and (4);
(6) Practice the competitive “pause” by having your partners give you a referee-style clap once the bar touches the chest. However, as discussed in Section 2.12, I would emphasize you use “touch-and-go”, quicker claps here;
(7) Finally, consistently practice all your competition-style bench press techniques as discussed in Chapter 2, so that when the meet does come your bench press style will be an old friend, not a nerve-wracking technique to bear when needed.

Remember, technique training in the bench press is WELL worth the effort, as the top bench pressers of the world have found. In my opinion, it is at least as important as the training of the key individual bench press muscles.

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